Matthew Norman's Media Diary

Click to follow

With the Barclay Brothers disbanding the magazine's board, fears of wholesale changes to The Spectator's editorial personnel send me to bed with a fit of the vapours. I'm up now, though, and with at least half the mag's regulars circling Boris Johnson's job like a school of portly sharks, let's begin by examining the claims of an old favourite. Simon Heffer, the police constable's son from Southend, has long yearned for an editor's chair, and that ambition seems as strong as ever. The fact that he has yet to admit his authorship of the Ken Bigley editorial may seem curious for one so keen on people taking responsibility for their actions. Then again, what has he to apologise for? Not a dickie bird judging by his latest offering, in which he goes as far as to admit having "a hand in" that leader. The nominal subject is Rocco Buttiglione's downfall - there could be a personal angle here; the two may well have met during Simon's time as a Milanese catwalk model, before his recent move to Paris to become the new face of Clarins. Yet bubbling away beneath the text is his fury that these days a chap can't write an unsigned piece full of grossly offensive factual errors without people making a song and dance. Simon, Simon, if you really want the job, be a man and cough to the Bigley fiasco. Even in this age of political correctness gone mad, no one loves a big girl's blouse who hides behind his editor's skirts.

* The time comes to consider who will succeed Lynda Lee-Potter at the Daily Mail. With Polly Toynbee remaining coy about her candidacy, William Hill make her 100/30 favourite "with a run" (your money back if she doesn't reach the starting stalls), with Amanda Platell next best on a 9/2 shot. Bunched on 7/1 are the Moore triplets, Jane, Suzanne and Patrick. Internal candidate Mad Mel Phillips, the Mirror's Sue Carroll and Sooty sidekick Soo are sixteens, and it's 20/1 bar those. The one significant market move concerns Esther Rantzen, subject of a sustained nibble from the Malaysian betting syndicates. The woman of whom it's so often said that, if anything, she cares too much is in to 25/1 from an insulting 80/1.

* In admitting that the station needs to raise its game, BBC director of radio Jenny Abramsky says: "Some of the quizzes on Radio 4 have been painful." I trust she isn't thinking of Quote...Unquote with Nigel Rees. It's not for me to blackmail BBC executives in print, but if anything were to happen to this show, in which fantastically obscure actors feign mental anguish before dredging up answers they were handed in the Green Room 20 minutes before ("ah, now, hang on, hang on, it's coming back to me. It's the 6th-century BC Persian poet Hazzuzz... would it be his seventh book of bucolic odes?") I will do such things, what they are yet I know not, but they shall be the terrors of the earth. (Hang on, it's coming back to me... King Lear, Act II, Sc ii 471? Yes? Phew!)

* One danger of scrapping Quote...Unquote is the number of otherwise restful actors it will return to the streets, causing God knows what mayhem. Things are quite bad enough as they are. "Due to the aggressive behaviour that our staff were subjected to by some BAFTA members who were not able to obtain seats at last night's two screenings of Bridget Jones," emailed Bridget of Premier PR to members of the academy last week, "we have decided to operate tomorrow night's screening on an RSVP basis." And to think that people moaned about the violence at Stamford Bridge.

* Rejoice, rejoice. After three weeks of silence during which it was feared he had been seized by the am-dram wing of Al Qa'ida, and forced at gunpoint to play the part of Tevye the milkman in a heavily ironic revival of Fiddler on the Roof, Gerald Kaufman returns to the fray. Experienced Gerald-watchers will be startled to learn that the subject of his comeback gig was a rant against the BBC, and specifically its governors. "As long as the board of governors is made up of amateurs who can be railroaded by the chairman ... the problem remains." Thank heaven the same couldn't be said of his own media select committee.

* Commiserations to the old darling, meanwhile, for his heartbreaking defeat in the South Manchester MPs Claiming Stakes. With an expenses tally of £173,023, Gerald was beaten into second by Withington's Keith Bradley, who edged him out by £127. Better luck next year.

* Back, finally, to the Spectator, and to Mark Steyn. Having spent months deriding John Kerry's chances, Mark now pledges to resign should Mr Bush lose. "Having failed to read correctly the mood in my own backyard," he writes, "I could hardly continue to pass myself off as a plausible interpreter of the great geopolitical forces at play." Indeed not. I vaguely recall Mark confidently predicting four years ago that Bush would win the popular vote, while Al Gore the White House, but doubtless that's a false memory. Whether or not American electors drive Mark from office on Tuesday, it's hard to view this as anything other than the most distressing and credible threat to quit since Andrew Lloyd Webber promised to emigrate if Labour won in 1997.